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Projects | Ellen and Sara Explore Super-Sized Classrooms

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Most schools and universities are comfortable with active-learning on a small scale of around 24 to 32 students. But keeping class sizes so small is difficult for prerequisite courses required to be taken by most of the student body. In order to increase student success as well as retention rate, the University of Illinois at Chicago, with the help of Bailey Edward, sought to bring active learning to the large classes of 150 more. For the latest issue of Planning for Higher Education, Principal Ellen Dickson and Client Relations Manager Sara Gaum explore Bailey Edward and UIC’s collaborative efforts to develop and prototype a large-scale, active learning classroom that allows greater collaboration and communication between faculty and students.

Before any planning or prototyping, Bailey Edward led an extensive study to figure out what was needed to make these super-sized active learning classrooms a success. We analyzed over 176 existing classrooms and more than 2,300 undergraduate courses on UIC’s East campus along with raw data supplied by the university including course count, enrollment, and class hours to determine the amount of space needed per student in an active learning environment. This information, along with extensive workshop discussions and townhall-style meetings with faculty, students, and staff informed the Bailey Edward design team of what would need to go into the prototypes.

Bailey Edward found that several factors would need to be addressed in order to ensure success in a large-scale active learning environment. Special consideration should be made to ensure students can clearly see instructors while presenting. Acoustics should be fine-tuned to project the voices of presenters, whether at the lectern or sitting in a seat. And when possible, technology should be incorporated to ensure students can easily collaborate within their group as well as present to the class as a whole.   

The findings were not only used to create a master plan document, but Bailey Edward also created an outline UIC could use to incorporate active learning within other large classrooms where renovation or reconstruction is not possible. This outline has already been used by the UIC Science and Engineering department to improve their classrooms and learning experiences for both the faculty and students. 

Visit the Society for College and University Planning website to read Ellen and Sara’s “Super-sizing Active Learning” for an in-depth look at how Bailey Edward helped make large-scale active learning a reality.